100 days – Day 52: Passports
It would appear that the UK Passport service is in meltdown. At least, it’s been called a shambles as people suffer long and frustrating delays in getting their applications processed.
Backlog caused by spike in applications has thrown many people’s plans into chaos, and many folk already have missed holidays abroad, while others are waiting anxiously to see if they will get theirs in time for forthcoming vacations or business trips.
Liverpool passport office – backlog of application forms
The Passport Office is facing an atmosphere of “blind panic”, a source within the service has claimed to ITV News, with staff “shunted” to the front line dealing with a huge backlog of applications.
The anonymous source claims boxes of passport applications are being lined up in rooms previously used for big meetings, with staff being told to avoid the original store room as it is “so full” they fear a risk to health and safety.
Pictures shown to ITV News reveal stacks of the boxes lined in a conference room, with staff claiming this is not the only room used to store ongoing applications.
“There’s a blind panic, frankly, and staff are being shunted from areas of work they were doing to deal with the massive backlog,” the source said. A source said the room was previously used for large meetings but has now been used for storage.
It is claimed that current delays in the process are being caused by a lack of staff, brought about by cuts to the service earlier in this parliament. But the Home Office insists there is no backlog, even though additional staff and resources are being assigned to the service to meet “unprecedented” demand.
The department says the need for the temporary space “signifies the levels of demand” but says the papers shown have all been processed and logged and are being held securely.
Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Passport Office Paul Pugh said: “We would remind people of our existing advice to customers: allow plenty of time when applying for a new or renewed passport as a passport will not be issued until the necessary security checks have been done, and do not book travel until you have received your passport.”
There was a lovely story on the internet last week
A Chinese tourist was reportedly left stranded in a Korean airport after his four-year-old son defaced his passport with a black pen.
The man, named under the alias Mr Zhang, was preparing to return to China when he realised he had made the mistake of leaving his passport with his “naughty” son, according to a report by Xinhua, China’s official news agency.
The boy ran riot with his biro, treating the passport like a “sketch book”, Xinhua said.
Animals, clouds, plants and unintelligible squiggles appeared on the pages of the People’s Republic of China travel document.
The man’s photograph did not escape: the boy added black shades to his father’s face and an explosion of whisker-like facial hair that sprouted from his chin, cheeks and scalp.
South Korean immigration officials were unimpressed with the makeover, Xinhua claimed. He was barred from leaving the country, leaving him temporarily stranded.
(sadly, the above story seems to be an “Urban Legend”)
An very elderly gentleman arrived in Paris by plane.
At the French customs desk, the man took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry-on bag.
“You have been to France before, monsieur?” the customs officer asked, sarcastically.
The elderly gentleman admitted he had been to France previously.
“Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.”
The old fellow said, “The last time I was here, I didn`t have to show it.”
“Impossible. Those entering La Belle France from Britain always have to show your passports on arrival here!”
The elderly gent gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained, “Well, when I came ashore at Normandy on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn`t find any Frenchmen to show it to.”
100 days – Day 34: Memorials and Freedom
Once, in the mid 1970s, I talked to a school assembly about memorials. I no longer have the notes (it was, after all, almost forty years ago), but I remember mentioning two memorials in particular. The first is to be found in Normandy in northern France – and is dedicated to the memory of one Madame Harel. Who? Well, Marie Harel (nee Fontaine) invented Camembert cheese!
In 1791 by Marie Harel is said to have invented this type of cheese who was a farmer from Normandy. The idea came from a from a priest who was from the town of Brie famous for its cheeses. The abbey who was called Bonvoust supposedly sought refuge with Marie at her farm. In return for the shelter she offered him, he gave to Marie the secret of making Camembert cheese.
The next memorial that I talked about at that School Assembly was one erected in remembrance of Captain Hanson Gregory, of Rockport, Maine. Captain Gregory’s claim to fame is that he allegedly invented the hole in the doughnut!
This sea captain reportedly ate blobs of fried dough while piloting his ship. One day in 1847, he impaled the blobs on the handles of the ship’s big steering wheel for easy snack access. And so, the idea of the doughnut — dough with a handy hole — was born.
Rockport didn’t forget its famous son. On the 100th anniversary of Captain Gregory’s discovery, a plaque was erected at his birth site (spelling it “donut”). The building that once stood there is now gone, but the Lutheran church that currently occupies the spot takes good care of the plaque, planting around it with flowers.
Today, in the United States, Memorial Day is commemorated with a Federal holiday.
Memorial Day is a time to remember those who died while serving in the armed forces.
The holiday, which is celebrated every year on the last Monday of May was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the war.
By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honour all Americans who have died while in the military service.
Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans
But let’s leave Doughnuts, and this Special Commemoration of Memorial Day in the USA, and go back to Normandy
Not to the memorial to the inventor of a particular type of cheese, but to the forthcoming anniversary of D Day and the Normandy landings, and its commemoration.
Last week, David Cameron has paid tribute to Britain’s D-Day veterans ahead of the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings.
The prime minister described his “awe and pride” at an operation which marked “the beginning of the end of fascism”.
He was speaking on board HMS Belfast, the World War Two ship, which is moored on the River Thames.
The five surviving D-Day veterans who served on HMS Belfast were also present at the commemorative ceremony.
The 6 June 1944 attack saw more than 156,000 Allied troops storm the beaches of France and marked the beginning of the end of WWII.
HMS Belfast spent five weeks supporting the D-Day landings, firing thousands of shells.
The Prime Minister told the veterans he would educate his children about the bravery shown by those serving their country.
“I will teach [my children] that the freedoms we enjoy weren’t just handed down, they were hard won.
“I will teach them that their generation and my generation owe your generation so much.”
Tuesday’s ceremony came ahead of huge commemoration events planned for both the UK and France in June, including an international event on one of the Normandy beaches attended by veterans and dignitaries including the Queen, Mr Cameron, and US President Barack Obama.
I write this on the morning following the results of the European elections.
Remaining in France, first of all – it is worrying that a Fascist political party, the National Front, has won so many votes. This far-right, anti-immigrant party led by Marine Le Pen took something like 26 percent of the vote
Further, it appears that voters across Europe have also voted for extremist right wing parties.
Chillingly, there were signs a neo-Nazi candidate for the NPD party could be elected in Germany, giving the far-Right a foothold for the first time in decades
In Greece, the anti-Europe Syriza party topped the poll with 26.49 per cent of the vote and the extreme right Right Golden Dawn looked set to enter the European Parliament for the first time, with three seats and 9.3 per cent of the vote.
The party – which denies claims it is a criminal organisation with a neo-Nazi ideology – came third overall in Greece.
The anti-Islam Danish People’s Party came first in that country’s elections.
After a bloody World War, in which freedom was won at such great cost, what have we done to allow the memorial to be so besmirched by those who copy-cat (to large degree) those who created such division in the first place.
Did we win the War, only to lose the peace?
May our living memorial be a life that has ingrained in its heart these words from the Apostle’s letter to the Philippians, at Chapter 4 verse 8:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.